Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Old Labour, New Glottal Stop

The glottal stop is as much a mark of the new left as the wibbly mason's handshake was of the old Tories; both are deeply amusing to observers, but applied with deadly seriousness by insiders. They come from good middle class homes, you see, in which their parents listen to Radio Three and guests are intelligent and articulate. They grow up with perfect diction, and as is the new fashion, absolutely accentless. Then they go to Uni.


For the first time they meet real regional people with accents, people whose parents often work for a living, maybe even people who live in a Council House. How can they be credible members of the Marxist Society or the Labour Students Soc alongside such people? The talented polyglots may grow a regional tinge to their voice, but these are rare. Most adopt the easier course of truncating perfectly healthy words with a contrived glottal stop in the belief that it makes them sound working class. 


You hear it from every nice middle class boy selling Socialist Worker, from every young woman who has forsaken the gymkhana rosettes on her bedroom wall for wimmin's rights. Ed Balls does it to excess. And now we have a Labour leader who pretends that he can't speak English properly. 


How you speak is important. Young men, in particular young black men from horrendous estates in London who are trying, striving, struggling to make their way in life in jobs that require a good sales manner, a correct verbal fluency with customers, enunciate their words with a precision they've had to learn since school. They have my utter admiration. When I get a cold-call and the voice on the other end is a young black man carefully speaking clearly and crafting his diction I'm as polite and as friendly as I can be. This deserves respect. I'm almost prepared to agree to a visit from an Everest rep because they're trying. Really trying


Edward, dear boy, if you're bright enough to lead the nation you must be bright enough to realise that leaving the ends off words won't make you working class and no one will believe you've ever had a real job either. No one will believe you've ever had to try for anything. No one is fooled. You may have been doing it since Uni, and it may have become a habit. But, frankly, it sounds absurd. And it's deeply disrespectful. Lose it. 

14 comments:

Jackart said...

There's a female Sergeant in my TA unit with this appaling disease. She's a management consultant of some sort on civi street. Does she really think that the glottal stop helps her boss ex-regulars around?

I couldn't agree more with your post!

Chuckles said...

I find the bilabial fricative an effective response.

talwin said...

Agree entirely. They don't see that this affectation sounds as ludicrous, and looks so obviously contrived, as Mrs. Slocombe's (or even Lord Prescott's) attempts to sound posh.

Henry Crun said...

Blair did it as well. I put it down to their vocal coach.

It could be worse, Ed could use the annoying interrogative inflection at the end of each sentence. That drives me mad more than the glottal stop thing.

Anonymous said...

Call me Mr. Picky but "blowing a raspberry" is in fact a linguolabial trill, not bilabial fricative, because you have to use your tongue to make the sound.

Nonethless, I am still laughing at the idea that we should attend these meetings and blow raspberries at Labour speakers.

Coney Island

Edward Spalton said...

I have also noticed a general tendency to insert a sort of a vowel sound where none exists, as in pUHlease., athUHlete etc. I heard a presumably learned educationalist doing this and then referring to the "cricklum" (curriculum)

Ed P said...

Wha yoo meen? I torque propperr
An my name'ss Edward

Anonymous said...

huntin,shootin and fishin?

Marge said...

I' orl star'id ter go dahn'ill wiv: Yewl nevva ge'a be'a bi'a bu'a on yer knife.

Scrobs... said...

Henry Crun mentions something dear (not) to me - The 'Moronic Interrogative'!

We tried a few weeks ago to unravel a few of these, and I got it wrong as well!

Manganese said...

There are loads to add to the list. I have long suspected the mockney of James O'Brian, the LBC presenter. He is far too well educated to speak the way he does.

The only place where the glottal stop can't be heard these days is in the East End, ironically enough. There is now an attempt to stress the endings of words, rather than swallow them, amongst Estuary English speakers.

Thus Bluewater isn't pronounced Bluwa'a - with a glottal stop - but is pronounced Blue-wart-tuh.

Mind you - the whole language is changing fast. I heard a woman in Waterstones say to a counter assistant "I'm lurking for a berk". As for "facilities" becoming "faciliteees"...wtf?

Elby the Beserk said...

Did you notice how Burnham's Northern accent became more pronounced when he put himself forward for the leadership contest?

I should add that Burnham does at least seem to belong to species Homo Sapiens, whereas the Milibands and Balls would be of Homo Bugeyedicus roots, methinks.

Elby the Beserk said...

Milband E needs to get his sinuses fixed quick else there will be mass drowning of radios whilst shaving going on.

Manganese said...

Elby - I knew Burnham was phony when he said, on the day of the leadership announcement, that he was just as nervous anticipating the outcome of the Everton match. Yeah - right.